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Ratepayers request section 21 be repealed from City of Powell River's incorporation act

Townsite Ratepayers Society wants industrial land designation removed
SUGGESTS CHANGE: Townsite Ratepayers Society is advocating for the special designation for industrial lands in Townsite to be removed entirely. The province is in the process of removing city-owned lands from section 21 of the city’s incorporation act, but the Catalyst Paper Tis’kwat mill, Tla’amin Nation lands and properties used by Western Forest Products will remain in the designation.

City of Powell River councillors voted to note and file correspondence from Townsite Ratepayers Society, which requested that section 21 of the city’s incorporation act, protecting industrial activities at the paper mill site, be removed.

At the January 18 committee of the whole meeting, in response to the correspondence, chief administrative officer Russell Brewer said the province is still targeting the end of February or beginning of March to bring a new regulation into effect. The regulation will remove section 21 stipulations on former mill site lands now owned by the city, but will continue to provide section 21 protection to the current Catalyst Paper Tis’kwat property, plus property owned by the Tla’amin Nation and property used by Western Forest Products.

Brewer said the province wanted to convey that should a request for a full repeal of section 21 be made, the earliest that could happen, because it would require an amendment to the act itself, would be late 2023, given what’s on the docket for provincial legislation.

Councillor Cindy Elliott said the options were to proceed with what the city is doing without changes to the request, or to table it and make a new request that would take some time, including past the municipal election.

Brewer said with the new regulation, once it’s in place, it is possible to request subsequent amendments to revise the boundary.

“So, to address some of the concerns in the [Townsite Ratepayers Society] correspondence, there is nothing to preclude further requests from council to tweak the boundaries again, but a full repeal would require that the act be amended, which would be delayed at the earliest to late 2023,” said Brewer.

Doubt makes motion

Councillor George Doubt said he wanted to make a motion to note and file the ratepayer society’s correspondence, in order to accomplish two things. One is to deal with the correspondence, and also to give council the opportunity to deal with future things going on in the Townsite area, and to deal with planning there.

“If we simply table this, and allow the process that is happening now that takes lands outside of the mill site itself and removes them from section 21, that gives the city more control over planning of those areas that are subject to future development and within the control of the city,” said Doubt. “That is something better than what we’ve had before. If we try to change the application we are dealing with now, it looks to me, from correspondence we’ve received, that we’d be removing any ability to get any control over any of the current section 21 lands until sometime after 2023. I’d like to have control over the old golf course lands and other ones that the city could have.”

The committee carried Doubt’s motion to note and file.

In the correspondence, Townsite Ratepayers Society president Diana Collicutt stated that the society is requesting that city council renegotiate with the provincial government to place Powell River on equal economic footing with all other municipalities in BC. Therefore, the city needs to formally request the change to remove all material effects of section 21 of the Powell River letters patent and upon any city governance measures, stated Collicutt.

“The provisions of section 21 are archaic and have no place in a modern municipality in the 21st century,” stated Collicutt. “With the closure of the mill, it further emphasizes that circumstances have changed significantly. The city has worked hard and put forward an enormous effort to ensure the mill remains operational, granting significant tax breaks over the years, with the increasing burden placed on the residential and commercial property owners.

“The public has paid the price with job and revenue losses and it is clear the city has missed out on significant tax collection. Retaining section 21 for the mill site lands prevents any direction over the land’s future use and the next company to operate. How is this good for Powell River?”

Collicutt said the request is that the city halt the section 21 amendment process and instead commence negotiations with the province to strike section 21 from the letters patent, and that no further rules or regulations or special purpose legislation be put in its place.